For the past two decades, Flickskinny has delivered the low-down on new blockbuster releases to avid film fans by way of witty, conversational commentary from the comic’s cartoon-ified co-creators. Flagpole readers may be surprised to see the comic jump off of the paper and onto the canvas, when “The Flickskinny Gallery,” an exhibition of paintings, takes over the walls of Flicker Theatre & Bar for the month of November.
Stuck working together every Friday night as new hires at Vision Video in 1998, Jeremy Long and Clint McElroy quickly bonded over their mutual love for films as well as comics, which they had both independently made in the past. After the ingenious idea to combine their interests, the duo began passing the time by co-illustrating a movie review comic strip. Named for the thinness of its first issue, Flickskinny was sold inside of the video store and picked up two years later by Flagpole, where it has appeared as a weekly staple ever since. After 17 years, McElroy retired from Flickskinny, but Long has continued to carry the torch alone.
“I usually pick the movie that looks most expensive, because they’re more fun to draw. My motto is, I’d rather draw robots and giant sharks than people smooching. I can’t even draw fingers, much less emotions,” says Long. “I usually know what I’m going to see weeks ahead of time, but if something suddenly appears one week and has a [3 percent] on Rotten Tomatoes, then I’ll usually change plans last-minute.”
While the format has seldom been tweaked stylistically—just a scaling down from four panels to two panels—Flickskinny has expanded into other media and creative endeavors over the years. In addition to a radio show, Long and McElroy produced a series of animated shorts called “True Tour Stories.” Starring cartoon versions of local bands such as Laminated Cat, Casper and the Cookies, Venice Is Sinking and The Sunshine Fix, the videos retell the hilarious highs and lows of being on the road. (Long and McElroy have also co-owned Flicker since 2007.)
Though he’s observed some positive trends in the film industry over the past two decades, Long suggests there’s still room for progress.
“Hollywood has gotten better about casting minorities—or is making an effort to look like they are trying—but sadly, this is happening at a time when all they really get to do is run from giant robots and half-melted zombie dogs,” says Long. “I guess that’s progress. It’s helpful for the Flickskinny, for sure, but maybe not so much for cinema at large.”
The comic’s previous visual art exhibition, “The Flickskinny Museum,” was held in celebration of its 15th anniversary in 2013. Envisioned as a retrospective parody juxtaposing the seriousness of cultural institutions with the silliness of the comic, the displays unearthed history through rough drafts, hand-drawn VHS boxes, montages of cameos, trivia questions, childhood mementos and other curios.
Continuing a tone of tongue-in-cheek sophistication, this year’s “Flickskinny Gallery” hones in on the imagery of the comic. Long chose a handful of his favorite panels from over the years and painted them onto canvases, being careful to select images that can stand strongly on their own without the written review portions.
“I tried to ape different art styles as I went along, but they all just kind of look like Flickskinnies,” he says. “It started as sort of a parody, but I really got into it the longer I did it. I’d never painted before, so what’s in the show will literally be the first nine paintings I’ve ever done in my life. I’m pretty stoked to hang them up!”
Beyond the orange wall, movie lovers should take note of the venue’s growing frequency of screenings, often organized by the Flicker Film Society. October was horror-heavy, with a “31 Days of Darkness” series, and the new month will become “Nic-vember,” with Wednesday nights dedicated to Nicolas Cage.
“Vision Video Friday nights always felt like a club atmosphere, where everybody only ever talked about movies,” says Long. “The FFS is the first thing I’ve been involved in so far that feels like those glory days at the video store. It’s been life-affirming for me and brings me much personal joy. Like a good Nic Cage performance.”
An opening reception for “The Flickskinny Gallery” will be held on Friday, Nov. 2 beginning at 7 p.m. with live music from Rebreeders following at 9 p.m. In addition to the paintings and Flickskinny box-sets that will be available for purchase, the night doubles as the release party for The Flickskinny Book, which has been locally published by The Garbage Factory and will soon appear on the shelves of local bookshops.
Flickskinny celebrates 20 years with handpainted panels by Jeremy Long. The Flickskinny book will be released depending on the printing company. Live music by the Rebreeders. See Art Notes on p. 11.